Oklahoma Sen. Rob Standridge plans to introduce legislation in the upcoming session to toughen criminal penalties to discourage rioting.
“I think we need to send a signal to those that might want to harm someone, something, that there are repercussions for that,” Standridge, a Republican from Norman said Thursday.
Two focuses of the proposed bill, which Standridge said is still being drafted, will add penalties to assaulting a law enforcement officer and ensuring restitution for property damage.
Under existing state statute, assault against an officer could lead to a variety of sentences depending on the crime. Aggravated assault and battery against law enforcement carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Standridge, who is up for re-election in November, said he is working with Republicans in the House and members of law enforcement on the legislation. He said the proposal may also seek changes to penalties for rioting and inciting a riot.
“I hope that it has a chilling effect on anybody that wants to do damage,” he said.
Democratic Rep. Jason Lowe of Oklahoma City said adding to criminal sentences could discourage people from protesting peacefully.
“We just need to calm down, slow down, and incorporate the laws that we have on the books. We don’t need new laws,” Lowe said.
The Oklahoma City Fraternal Order of Police posted a statement on social media supporting Standridge’s statements, saying additional penalties would “deter violence and ensure financial accountability for those who destroy property during riots.”
Nicole McAfee of the ACLU of Oklahoma said, “I think that more than anything, this announcement by Sen. Standridge is political,” referencing his upcoming competition to remain in office.
The legislative session starts in February.